Mel Brooks new book, All About Me: My Remarkable Life in Show Business, made its debut on Tuesday. I had pre-ordered it and awoke Tuesday morning to the cheerful news that the book was available and we might see our first snow of the season. The snow failed to make an impression but the book has put me in a quandary all day: should I start it now, or wait a few weeks?
After a monthlong spell of not being able to figure out what to read, I went with an old reliable and re-read One Man’s Meat by E. B. White for the fifth time. That seemed to get me back on track. I finished the book at lunchtime, and of course, I am eager to start the Mel Brooks memoir. I’ve seen him on TV lately and there are few people I think of as funnier than Mel. But there is reason to wait. In a few weeks, we’ll be heading to Florida for our winter vacation, and I really want to save the book for when I am down there.
At the end of 2015, while on vacation in Florida, I began reading Dick Van Dyke’s memoir My Lucky Life In and Out of Show Business. I would listen to the audio book (narrated by Van Dyke) while walking on the two mile loop of a bike path that circumnavigate’s the community where my mother-in-law lives. It was winter, but it was 80-degrees. I wore shorts as I walked, an in these 2-mile spurts, I listened to Dick Van Dyke tell stories of his life, his career, and Hollywood. I like it so much that when I finished it, I immediately began another Dick Van Dyke memoir, Keep Moving, and Other Tips and Truths About Aging. I found that I couldn’t get enough.
I followed those up with two Carl Reiner memoirs, I Remember Me, which I read poolside, and I Just Remembered which I listened to as we began the 1,100 mile drive back home. It was wonderful having Carl in the car with me, regaling me with stories of the borsht belt, New York, and Hollywood. The drive was long and I wanted more, so I listened to Carol Burnett’s This Time Together to finish out the drive.
Still not satiated, upon arriving home, I spent that cold, snowy January reading Norman Lear’s Even This I Get To Experience, Garry Marshall’s My Happy Days in Hollywood, and Tim Conway’s hilarious What’s So Funny?
In 2018, while in Florida for our holiday break, I found myself listening to Bing Crosby: Swinging on a Star: The War Years, 1940-1946 by Gary Giddins, and I called it a tradition. In 2019, while walking that 2-mile bike path each morning, I listened to The Ride of a Lifetime: Lessons Learned from 15 Years as CEO of the Walt Disney Company by Bob Iger, as well as George Lucas: A Life by Brian Jay Jones, and also Anything You Can Imagine: Peter Jackson and the Making of Middle-Earth by Peter Jackson. Holiday vacation in Florida had become a time for guilty pleasure reading, and one of my guilty pleasures are Hollywood memoirs.
But a special subset of those memoirs are those by folks who have been in the business for fifty, sixty, seventy years: the Dick Van Dykes and Carl Reiners and, yes, the Mel Brookses.
I recently wrote about my favorite place to read: it is in hindsight. I look back fondly on those sunny, warm walks in winter, passing through the shade of palm trees while lizards and other reptiles (and not a few rabbits) scamper, slither and hop out of my way. I lose myself in those books and in that atmosphere. There is a strange juxtaposition: it is winter and holiday season. Indoors, the air conditioning keeps the Christmas trees comfortable. There are holiday cookies, Christmas masses and dinners, decorations and presents. Yet outdoors it is summer, and there is something out these memoirs that I just enjoy so much.
So while I am eager to listen to Mel Brook’s memoir–which is narrated by Mel Brooks, just as Dick Van Dyke and Carl Reiner and Carol Burnett and Tim Conway narrated theirs–I want to keep my tradition going. So I am going to wait a few more weeks, though it pains me, until we are once again in Florida, the entire family now fully vaccinated, the grownups boosted, carefree for a long holiday, and listen to the book then.
In the meantime, I have to figure out what to read–and hope that Mel Brooks, now 95-1/2–proves that he really is the Thousand Year Old Man, so that I can send him a note when I finish reading the book.
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